For Those Who Are About to Die

Seneca, Moral Epistles 82. 20-21

When someone is leading an army to die for their wives and children, how should they rally them? I offer to you that Fabius who took the burden of a war for the whole state upon a single household. I show you the Spartans who were placed at the passes of Thermopylae. They could not expect either victory or retreat.

That place was destined to be their grave. How would you rally them so that they would offer up their bodies to receive the ruin meant for the whole people, so that they would leave life instead of their position? Would you say, “What is evil is not glorious; death is glorious, therefore death is not evil?” What a moving speech! Who would hesitate to hurl themselves against the enemy’s spears and die where they stood?

But Leonidas spoke to them more bravely. He said, “Comrades: eat breakfast well, since tonight we dine in hell.”

In aciem educturus exercitum pro coniugibus ac liberis mortem obiturum quomodo exhortabitur? Do tibi Fabios totum rei publicae bellum in unam transferentes domum. Laconas tibi ostendo in ipsis Thermopylarum angustiis positos. Nec victoriam sperant nec reditum. Ille locus illis sepulchrum futurus est. Quemadmodum exhortaris, ut totius gentis ruinam obiectis corporibus excipiant et vita potius quam loco cedant? Dices: “quod malum est, gloriosum non est; mors gloriosa est; mors ergo non malum”? O efficacem contionem! Quis post hanc dubitet se infestis ingerere mucronibus et stans mori! At ille Leonidas quam fortiter illos adlocutus est! “Sic,” inquit, “commilitones, prandete tamquam apud inferos cenaturi.”

Leonidas meme from the movie 300 with the king shouting. Here he is saying tamquam apud inferos cenatur which means "breakfast well, for tonight we dine in hell."

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